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The Importance of Surface Irrigation During Dry Weather

Watering your arena surface has never been more critical than during the summer months when increased temperatures and a lack of rainfall can quickly cause your footing to dry out. Ideally, your surface should have a minimum moisture content of 4% but around 6-8% for optimum performance. Without the correct amount of moisture, your footing will become significantly unstable. The fibre will begin to migrate to the top of the surface, and the silica sand will become loose and deep, making riding conditions difficult and increasing the risk of strain-related injuries.

How do I know if my riding surface is too dry?

The only way to know the exact moisture content of your surface is to have it tested, which we can do at our laboratory, to an EN standard. However, if your footing is riding deep and fibres have separated from the sand, your surface is probably too dry.

The simplest way to check this, without sending a sample off to the laboratory for testing, is to grab a handful of the surface and try shaping it into a ball. If the surface sticks together and the ball holds its shape, the moisture content of your footing is probably ok. However, if the ball falls apart like a sandcastle would if made with dry sand, the surface likely needs watering.

equestrian arena surface

What should I do if my arena surface is too dry?

The immediate solution for a dry surface is to add lots of water. Ideally, this should be done using either a water bowser, sprinklers, or an in-surface pipe system commonly known as “Leaky pipes”. Alternatively, if irrigating your surface is not practical, you could always upgrade the surface to a waxed footing.

It is also essential to not grade the surface too deeply as the lower half of the footing, which should still be damp and compacted, will be disturbed. Ensure that your tines are set on the highest level if you need to grade the surface.

How much water do I need?

The main answer to this question is lots! Unfortunately, as no two situations are ever the same, it is impossible to give you an exact figure without first completing the appropriate tests. However, the adjacent table provides examples of how much water you need to add to a surface to bring the moisture content back to a suitable level.

horse arena surface irrigation table
grading an equestrian arena surface

What should I do once I’ve watered my surface?

Once the appropriate amount of water has been added, the surface should be graded, helping to disperse water evenly throughout the footing and re-mixing any fibres that have become separated. In some extreme cases, the surface may need to be professionally re-mixed, which we can complete for you on a cost basis.

Have Questions?

If you’d like to discuss your surface with us, please complete our contact form or call 0800  044 8101.